Simple and delicious take on a traditional vegetable casserole. This baked ratatouille recipe is loaded with flavor and healthful Mediterranean ingredients.
Looking for a great-tasting vegetarian main dish? Ratatouille has it going on! This is a fresh take on a traditional French ratatouille recipe.
My version is an easy baked casserole, loaded with a balance of healthy, colorful vegetables.
The finished dish is sprinkled with basil pesto and soft goat cheese when it comes out of the oven, which slightly melts into a creamy, delicious topping.
What is ratatouille
One of the best vegetarian casseroles in the world, ratatouille is a peasant dish from the south of France.
Ratatouille has been made for centuries in some form in countries all around the Mediterranean.
Pop culture made the dish trendy after a certain rat (by the same name) prepared “Confit Byaldi” in the Disney Ratatouille film.
It’s basically a thick vegetable stew, most typically made with tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers and eggplant.
If you think you’re not a fan of classic ratatouille, I’m right there with you.
I can remember eating ratatouille back when I was a college student, and the pictures that pop into my head aren’t pretty at all.
The “ratatouille” that was offered as an option for vegetarians back then resembled brownish-green overcooked slop.
It was nowhere near the beautiful dish of colorful vegetables it’s meant to be.
For a hot minute (more than a minute, actually) I never wanted to see ratatouille again!
Obviously, I’ve gotten over the trauma and learned how to make ratatouille that tastes like a dream.
Trust me on this.
What does ratatouille taste like?
Let’s be real – baking eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and peppers changes their textures.
Ideally, the vegetables release natural juices and sugars and become pleasantly tender in the oven.
That magical sweetness is one reason roasted vegetables taste so good.
When a dish like ratatouille comes together perfectly, you get meltingly tender sweet vegetables, tangy juices, and the beautiful fragrance of garlic and herbs.
Aren’t you hungry?!
What is ratatouille made of?
The best ratatouille has a good balance of mixed vegetables, not too much of one or another.
Traditional ratatouille is based on vegetables common in the Mediterranean diet:
- Eggplant (Aubergine)
- Green Squash (Zucchini) and/or Yellow Summer Squash
- Bell Peppers – Red or orange bells are a must. Green bell peppers are not sweet, and turn the dish an unappealing olive green color.
- Herbs – Aromatic herbs like basil, thyme, rosemary or marjoram.
- Olive oil – I recommend a good extra-virgin oil.
Does eggplant need to be salted before cooking?
This is a question I get asked a lot — my answer is that you don’t need to salt your eggplant.
I’ve been cooking eggplant for many years. I never pre-salt it and it always turns out deliciously.
Generations ago, the type of eggplants that were grown tasted bitter. Salting the flesh before cooking helped to take some of that bitterness away and made the eggplant softer for frying.
But I think modern varieties of eggplant tend to be sweeter than the ones my grandmother cooked with years ago. Plus the time between harvesting and reaching the market is much shorter.
Eggplant tip: Choose really fresh glossy-skinned eggplant in your market that are not too large and feel firm to the touch. Or trying growing your own!
What to serve with ratatouille
- Spoon over creamy polenta as a vegetarian main dish or side dish.
- Enjoy it all by itself, with sliced toasted sourdough bread on the side.
- Stir in some cannellini beans or chickpeas for extra protein.
- If you’re not on a vegetarian diet, make ratatouille a landing pad on your plate for cooked animal protein (chicken, shrimp, salmon)
Make ratatouille in advance
Some dishes were invented to be leftovers, like soups and stews that taste even better the next day (and the day after).
Ratatouille is a perfect example.
Make a batch of this ratatouille — it serves up to 6 people as a side, or 4 as a main dish — and keep any leftovers in the refrigerator up to a week.
This dish can be frozen. Prepare the recipe and bake, but leave off the cheese and pesto. Defrost and heat at 350F about 20 minutes, then add the cheese and pesto before serving.
Do you peel eggplant for ratatouille?
You don’t need to peel eggplant for this ratatouille recipe, but I usually trim off some of it for the best texture.
I actually like to peel off strips of skin, leaving the slices with pretty stripes.
That way you get a little of both parts of the eggplant in each bite!
Get the recipe:
Baked Ratatouille Recipe with Goat Cheese
- 1 pound (450 g) eggplant
- 2 small zucchini, 8-10 ounces total, sliced into 1/2″ circles
- 1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced into large bite-size pieces
- 1 small red onion, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves plus 3 or 4 sprigs
- 1 cup (250 ml) canned tomato puree or strained tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 plum tomatoes or Campari tomatoes, sliced
- 3 ounces (75 g) soft goat cheese, omit for vegan
- 2 tablespoons prepared basil pesto
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Peel the eggplant, if desired, or leave some of the skin on in strips. Trim off the stem and sliced into quarters lengthwise, then slice into 1-inch thick half moons.
- Put the eggplant in a large bowl with the zucchini, bell pepper and onion. Drizzle with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and the chopped thyme and toss together.
- Pour the tomato puree into a 4-5 quart casserole or baking dish. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, garlic, red and black pepper and spread over the bottom of the dish.
- Arrange the vegetables in the dish in one layer. Top with the sliced tomatoes and thyme sprigs. Bake 30-35 minutes. The juices should be bubbling and the eggplant tender when pierced with a the tip of a knife. Remove the thyme stems (you can crumble the leaves over the dish first).
- Sprinkle the goat cheese over the ratatouille and drizzle with the pesto. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Ratatouille keeps well for up to 5 days in the refrigerator – and tastes even better leftover!
- Freezing Directions: Prepare and bake without the cheese and pesto. Freeze in a well wrapped container for up to 1 month. Defrost and heat at 350F about 20 minutes. Add the cheese and pesto before serving.